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the Renegades of 2012 are marching onward
We forward go straight through the Sun
We are the ones who will watch Babylon crumble
As the new world approaches..."
I hit the bar at about 2:30, where and when the crowd is getting tanked in prevision of the closing time. I had no problem getting in even though I probably looked rough. I ordered a glass of coke and I took a slow glance around, actually scrutinizing the darkest corners behind my shades.
I spotted the guy I was looking for - remembering from one good eye on a picture - 6'1", graying blond hair, he was turning his back so I couldn't catch his eyes quite yet, but his bulk betrayed the good shape he was in. Most particularly, I could smell him right out. This mission wasn't planned, but I simply reacted like the animal I was trained to be.
I've picked him up two minutes ago. I was actually walking back to my car to go home and drink some beer, when I've picked up a whiff of energy so strong I thought it was right next to me, half-taking me by surprise; but it happened across the street. This guy in the nice cream suit had just used his 'power of persuasion' to get himself and his two flunkies in the club instead of being on the list to start with. In my line of work those are signs to pick up.
He's looking a bit upset from his body language; towering over his boys and the guys he obviously came here to see. It had to be Luka Vassilieri, the 'sucker who's eluded the Section for close to six years. All I needed was for him to turn around - not even look straight at me - just let me see his face and then it's definitely going down.
I tried not to fidget too much. The hunt always excited my blood. Also a bit apprehensive and feeling open. Vassilieri is technically a big deal, and here I am without the slightest backup. Hopefully I would smell just like any other human in the swarm around him, not like blood and gunpowder.
The mark moved around for me to admire, and confirm the target. He's still pretty good-looking for being over a hundred years old. A solid cut of the chin, a seasoned skin, a steely death hidden in his glance. I could see why his Blue Blood sires decided to dig him up. He seemed to fit in with the modern suits and agendas.
Luckily for me Luka wasn't looking around too much. Was he really making himself comfortable? That would be a priceless catch that could score me-alone some good money.
"Excuse me, lady, I'd like to say I had my eyes on you the mom- -"
I looked at this guy who had decided to stand next to me, showing him what all this fighting did to the side of my face he apparently didn't get a chance to look at. The pun was too bad to tolerate.
"Cut the formalities. Turn around. Now."
I hate those idiots in my spare time, and I like running into them on the job even less. Nothing a strong man could do for me that i didn't already have to do on my own, and I thought I had worked well on my don't-bother-me face. I couldn't afford to be distracted by presence nor thoughts for very long with a rare prize like Luka floating around.
One of his cronies started looking around, as if a speck caught his attention. He tuned his immediate surroundings out, trying to "feel" things the same way I was feeling them.
When the wolves are getting uneasy, it's time to leave.
Instead of heading out the front door, I went through the back door, which led to the smoker's outside section. I didnt want to look like I was stalking the stalker too much. I could keep an eye inside through the bay window; I only wanted to secure his physical location. His interests and business were completely irrelevant to me.
His two goons, however, seemed keen enough to be problems. I should eagerly complain that I'm getting too old for this; you can take a girl out of the line but you can't take the line out of a girl. That's the only justification I need to do what I was meant to do. So I grabbed my cellphone.
The voice on the other end was a gravelly mutter of dissent.
"Y'betta 'ave a damn good reason for calling me in 'e middle'a 'e night..."
"File 3642-C8," I said back in a discreet tone. It probably took him a rub of the eye to remember.
"About twenty meters away. Wanna go splits?"
It was obviously enough to get the big man to stir out of bed.
"Stick with 'im. I'll 'ave you in a minute."
Vassilieri's visit seemed to draw to an end, and I stuffed the phone in my pocket to handle both glass and cigarette. I snuffed it out, and took a swig as I headed back to the bar. He seemed to take a fancy to this young girl, who
would without a doubt be allured by honeyed words from a man who exuded such power. I was tempted to lament that the girl was young enough to be my daughter, and yet would follow this stranger of all the ones to be found.
Even though I was trained to treat civilians as collateral, I knew enough by now to consider that somewhere this girl had a mother, and that I had cubs of my own. Not that I felt any obligation to rescue the yet-unknowing hostage - she didnt know what sort of predator had just began wooing her, and honestly, if there was any time in my own life when I might have been taking those kinds of risks unwittingly, I would praise the sky gods for anyone to care for my best interest.
I'm not a hero, just a contractor. Any one of my troopers would dispose of her along just for being exposed, for putting her hand on his arm and walking away with him. For accepting a veil being pulled over her eyes. Call it a liability, but I like pushing the envelope. She would probably be turned in the next hour, unless Luka didnt have breakfast and decided to grab and go.
The hunt took on a sense of urgency, and I'd have to act fast even though I might break some rules and leave the girl with a shattered sense of reality. I quietly moved across the room and snuck out to grab the phone out of my pocket, walking towards my car once more.
"Are you on or what?"
"I'm out 'e door. You can give me ten minutes, yes?"
"He's taking a juicebox with him. Cute lil daughter. This aint a coffin party that I know of so he'll be on his way any minute now."
"I 'ave a drone sent to make things easier. Eight minutes to your position."
"Eight is an eternity, mate..."
" 'Ave faith me old gal."
Two black sedans pulled in front of the club, dictating the tempo as one of the drivers got out and ready to job for his paycheck.
"You know how I feel about preachers. By the time they get to the point the s**t's already hit the fan. He'll be riding shotgun with the girl, gunners right behind them."
"How many in place?"
I looked at my cellphone hoping the man would feel the burn. "One," said I matter-of-factly. "There's only me, why you think I called you, old coot?"
"Impulsive as ever. Why didn't you just say 'Formation C'?"
"Believe me if I had any sort of plan I would have let you in on it a while ago or I would have let you sleep."
The club door opened, letting out a gust of music and heat onto the night air, and Vassilieri with his team and escort. The young girl seemed lulled enough to laugh at his anecdotes, and his two cohorts surveyed the surroundings as the young girl was lured closer to the spider's web. I was parked too far to be of particular interest just yet.
"He's on the move now. I wish I just had my rifle."
" 'Ere is one making its way to you sunshine."
"Just like good old days, huh Seven."
"Sod that mate. I'm getting too old for 'ose stunts."
"I pretty much have to go in for now. Brook to Westhill northbound. I have... a nine under my seat, with two clips."
"You turnin into a sweetheart, Fourecks? You used to sleep with 'e Uzi for a teddy! 'Ead on 'e shells!"
I couldn't deny either my past or the current state of affairs, but I wasn't going to dignify him with a response at the present moment. We rolled on different enemies then, when we were younger and not so far past our primes chasing an enemy that escaped the penalties of time. I know my partner only tried to hype me up a little bit, and it was much welcome, But the odds didn't look good. Even though we had air support, three on two with an hostage to mind sure sounded like some trick to pull off.
"And you're a regular little philanthropist. Where are you now?"
"Promenade, parallel northbound. Found a way to pull out 'e fragile yet?"
"Naw, we really gotta tip the scales. If you can be Diversion Kangaroo I could probably neutralize the keepers."
"Oh I can be a diversion, doll. Hopefully those reflexes are still sharp, ay?"
His gruff laughter died out over the phone, and I looked at the two cars ahead of me, trying to preview two dozen scenarios that I could think up, not mentioning the many variables floating in the air from having another wild one on my side. Working together, but definitely not on the same page. If I hadn't mentioned the young girl, I would not be surprised for a second to see this car go up in flames because of some stray rocket.
I made sure the gun was packed full of cases, and rolled down the windows. keeping my good eye peeled. It was then that up ahead I saw this black S.U.V. darting across the intersection from our left, slamming the brakes - as did the first sedan, but a contact was made. I was almost tempted to holler out loud at the lack of finesse, but it seemed to work. Seven got out of his truck and started waving threateningly at the sedan; the first driver honked, and the two goons moved out of the rear vehicle to intercept my burly partner.
That's when I took my chance, and crept up next to them, dropping both soldiers before the surprise was ruined. Using every last bit of momentum I could muster I guided the cannon towards the last man, who still sitting at his driver's seat, was in the process of grabbing his gun. I saw him mouthing something bad at my intention, but the first bullet had launched towards him before any words could really be said.
While I was making sure Vassilieri's men were out of commission, his personal driver scrambled to peel off and away. When I looked back forward, they were speeding past my man who almost got ran over. But 7 had managed to roll back to his feet, and gestured for me to get a move on. I maneuvered around the stationary cars and stepped on it to catch up, ears still ringing from the gunshots but the man's voice came through.
"Stick wit'im!! Brill work there sunnyface. You still got it!"
"Do what I can ay? I tagged 'is driver's door with a c-bomb. I'll be behind ya again in a minute so put 'e pressure on!"
I was thankful for the lack of traffic; my single eye already had a lot to take into account at every split second. I barely slowed down to take the corner in hot pursuit, feeling my limbs tingle in that fine instance of hesitation between lust and fearfulness.
Those car chases aren't as fun as they are made to look. Although it certainly is part of the hunt, my thrills laid in the actual confrontation. It's an exercise driving around for fun when you only have one eye; right now it was more stressful than anything else... So many dead angles... The driver ahead had an immense advantage over me despite the pressure I seemed to successfully keep putting on him.
I took a glance inside the cab, to catch sight of the girl who understandably looked alarmed - who is this crazy gun-toting person and why is she chasing us? Didn't I wonder why he had bodyguards? Or is none of this real altogether? - and Vassilieri's outraged visage as he looked to the ravaged right half of my face and understood just what was going to come to him.
I had to pay attention to the road, but when I looked back, he had pulled the babe out of the way to pull a cannon of his own reserve onto me. I ducked as the gun flared, hearing the windshield crack with a wince. He put one more or three somewhere in my hood, much to my chagrin, but I did my best to hold on, hoping to see the black S.U.V. in my rear view any second soon. "Bring it to pain, old man!"
Finally the roar of his engine came over this of my own, a single light reflecting at the corner of my eye. As he crawled up behind me and I switched lanes starboard, he called out one last time.
"I got ya covered mate."
His words were punctuated by a small enough explosion that popped the front tire and seemed to cripple the wheelman. We knew enough to get in position while the car spun, to flank him once Luka and his hostage could get out on either side. The sedan came to a halt pointing at 5 o'clock and the S.U.V. parked parallel to it, while I came screetching to a halt on its badly injured drivers side.
Working as one unit we jumped out of our vehicles, and started blasting at the sedan to make sure Vassilieri would not venture out quite yet; we rushed the doors and my blonde partner poured some more onto the 'sucker as I yanked the screaming girl out of the vehicle. That seemed to piss Luka off particularly, because a blast sounded off and my buddy, no matter how big he is, was just thrown back like a kicked puppy. I threw the girl behind my car, and reached for a fresh clip. The big blonde had his vest to thank for his life while he scrambled back to cover, as a slight imprint had dug into it.
The struggling groan preceding the heavy snaps of a shotgun confirmed that the man was still fighting fit, but a distinctive shuffle of shoes on the pavement, the coarse growl and the stretching of clothes as Luka stood outside of the car seemed to make the entire neighborhood quieter.
Having barely heard the clip sliding in, I moved into position to aim again, to find him looking straight at me, the opposite side of his face having been ravaged by the other man's accurate gunplay. His slurred words were made surreal by the fact that half his jaw was hanging most disgustingly.
"Well played, kine.... I'll enjoy drinking from your open throat, but I'll start with him first."
"Is 'at so sunshine?" came the reply as Luca was aimed at with a shell full of Frag. Unfortunately it only seemed to be one more for him to take, and he easily leaped over the S.U.V. to meet Seven within arm's reach. I had to move out to get any sort of clear shot, as his vehicle's size seemed to be the biggest obstacle in all this. For all I know my brother at arms was about to get his heart pulled out of his chest, giving me incentive to move fast.
The girl seemed to protest about my leaving her side but she certainly had it easy in all this. We didn't have a whole hour to comfort her and book this case; in fact the precinct was probably on high alert by now. I literally had to dodge Seven who was hurled overhead. I had my intensive formation and wired reflexes to thank; in the second that could have seen him follow up on Seven -or, more currently, at me- with growing deadly talons, I was squeezing the trigger as many times as I could manage in the shortest time possible.
The damage finally started to sting in, as he reeled back at the end of the hail. I had forgotten to count my bullets and an empty clack presented a new problem. there was Seven's shotgun laying about a dozen feet away; I had no other alternative but to dive for it.
Despite his predicament, bloodied Luka most literally beat me to it, picking me up with a back hand that sent me rolling until I was stopped by the curb. Seven's Ruger barked in response; Luka Vassilieri had agitated himself into a monstrous shape, and smiled a distorted grin as he leaped towards us. We managed to move in opposite direction, and when I gathered to my feet I cursed the shortage of resources.
Luka wanted to make good on his promise to dispose of Seven first for putting bullets in his side, but he also wanted to get me first for being prone. What was I gonna do, pistol whip and kick his big bloody carcass? Even in his monstrous state he knew that Seven would put up enough of a fight to give me time to go reload. Instead, he threw one glance at the girl who was still hiding behind my car, and his eyes steeled in a way I knew too well. I felt the invisible energy shockwave again.
Before I could yell out any instructions, I just looked back at her to find her hypnotized by the mighty bloody heap of Luka. She turned her gaze at me, and I saw in her eyes a forced change of pure hostility, which drove her to stand up, and charge at me. She was going to be his distraction... Well played, kindred.
She was frail enough that she wouldn't be a problem but I did not want to hurt her too badly. I knew that a human under the influence of a 'sucker's Presence would fight as if her own life was at stake, or as if I had killed someone really dear to her. I attempted my best to restrain her at first, but she did aim to scratch, bite, kick; she was definitely not a fighter... but she seemed possessed. I tried slapping her out of it, but she kept screaming and struggling to strike me, nicking me near my good eye.
I grew aggravated, myself, because this was a case of babysitting while Seven was being overpowered by this treacherous parasite. Something clicked inside me, and I pulled the girl back to look at me as I indulged to a little transformation of my own. My muscles pulled, my hands clutching around her shoulders, my growing nails poking against her skin; coarse black hair grew over my arms and neck, my face elongating into that of a wolf as I almost doubled in size, my clothes ripping under the pressure. When I had a voice to speak with, I growled loudly against her face, which had changed into a placid state; her eyes rolled to the back of her head and her knees had given out under her. Problem solved.
Now in wolf form, with wolf instinct, I rear myself to devote my attention to the enemy, to relieve my comrade. He had looked up from Seven, and finding me in my true form, hissed and braced himself to defend. I sprung forward, showed him how a clawed hand should be used, slashing at his chest through his guard and following with four razors to his already-maimed head.
He tackled me down, and I did lose my balance; he grabbed at my throat, and I felt my flesh pierce as he tightened his grip around my windpipe. I tried to yelp, and felt his hand loosen as he jerked forward. I grabbed him and rolled him off me, wasting no time to attack him until he did not move any more.
Seven approached me carefully while I was hacking furiously at Vassilieri's inert remains, discarding the used shell that had interrupted several of the monster's brain functions at the back of his head. "I think 'e's good now, aye. We gotta get out of 'ere."
I stopped my butcher's work, still crouching, and plunged my claws in his stomach one final time in frustration. I reverted back to my human shape, feeling somewhat humiliated that I couldn't keep control over myself. Now, for the bloody price to pay in order to heal the wounds caused during the battle, I had to lean over the open wound, and drink deep, until I felt the radiant power in my veins. I felt the spirit of Luka in my blood stream.... how long would it take until it was purged?
When I pulled up, I helped Seven load Luka's body in the back of the S.U.V., and he gave me some slacks to wear before he took off to "the office". I trusted him to handle my share; I just needed to get away from here. I loaded the girl in my battered car, and found the engine still running. She would wake up somewhere safe... I had a note to make in some old little black book. Luka Vassilieri, File 3642-C8, closed.... One Hundred and Twelve.